Border Collie with 'affinity for humans not sheep' becomes UK's first Welsh ambulance therapy dog

Dill's 'exceedingly gentle' nature and 'affinity to humans' make her suited to her new role Credit: Welsh Ambulance Service

The Welsh Ambulance Service has become the first in the UK to get a wellbeing and trauma therapy dog to help staff and volunteers who deal with traumatic and stressful experiences.

Ten-year-old border collie Dill, who has been working as a search and rescue dog for the past six years, will help people working in stressful roles.

She has been affiliated by the Oscar Kilo 9 (OK9) scheme, set up by the National Police Wellbeing Service to support staff in other emergency services with their mental health.

Handler Katie said Dill will play an important role in interacting with harder to reach members of the community Credit: Welsh Ambulance Service

Her handler, Katie McPheat-Collins, Service Manager for the Emergency Medical Services across Central Wales, said: “Dill is a 10-year-old border collie, who was shared with me by a shepherdess, when Dill’s natural affinity to humans, not sheep, was identified.

“For the past six years, Dill has been, and still is, an operational search and rescue dog with SARDA South Wales [Search and Rescue Dog Association of South Wales], and she is a member of Central Beacons Mountain Rescue Team.

“However, her exceedingly gentle, calm nature and affinity to people lead to the recent assessment and subsequent role within the Trust.”

Katie explained Dill will work in mid-Wales, where there are fewer therapy dogs.

She said: “We currently have police dogs affiliated to OK9, who visit stations and sites across South and North Wales, but there was a gap throughout the central region.

“With Dill, we are able to focus on central Wales, where crews especially from the smaller satellite stations may not be on base for a number of hours, and therefore not have the shared benefit of a canine visit."

Katie added that Dill will play an important role in interacting with harder to reach groups, saying she will help with "community engagement, especially when connecting with young, elderly or vulnerable audiences.”

Dill starts her new role after six years as a search and rescue dog Credit: Welsh Ambulance Service

Sergeant Garry Botterill, Wellbeing and Trauma Support Dog Project Lead with the National Police Wellbeing Service, said: “The OK9 scheme has proved to be extremely popular within the Police and Fire Service, and the number of Wellbeing and Trauma Support Dogs has grown to over 175 in the last 18 months. 

“We are delighted to welcome the Welsh Ambulance Service into the scheme, so that they can enjoy the many benefits of this structured, proven and effective wellbeing initiative.

“All emergency services deal with traumatic events and highly stressful situations.

“The Wellbeing Dogs help to bring some light relief to colleagues, especially following difficult incidents."

He added: “We have found they help people talk more openly, and as the handler is a peer support trained colleague, they listen effectively and can sign post to the appropriate support if needed."